Gray Cook and Erwan Le Corre: The Benefits of Self-Limiting Exercise

Self-limiting exercise is often difficult, but that may just be what produces authentic movement. Gray Cook and Erwan LeCorre demonstrate with simple balance beam exercises.

Gray Cook: It’s so different to watch their movements as soon as you impose the board. Everything gets more serious, even though it’s only two inches high— we notice the exact same thing on the inline lunge test in the FMS, because the elevated platform, for some reason, is much different than a piece of tape on the carpet or the ground.

So, we see people do things when we impose that little extra bit of difficulty that produces, to us, what we think is their authentic movement.

If it’s not functional, we want to capture that so we can remedy it.

I just have one question for you. If you walked out and did five of those movements in a row without a fall, would there be any question in your mind (whether Erwan was here or not) of if your quality at least acceptable?

“Yeah. Oh, Yeah.”

You get the feedback right away. If you fall off, you know that the rep doesn’t count and if you don’t fall off, you at least had the integrity. It had nothing to do with your strength and it basically had to do with your mobility—but the way that you use your mobility is actually your stability. You’re limited by the two-by-four and now if the coaches happen to look away, your feedback is still at a high enough level—which to me is what self-limiting exercise is—and so many of us who may train without supervision . . . the coach or trainer is not always there—self-limiting exercises are what our ancestors used to become adaptable.

What we’ve done, many times, is to remove the limitations so people could burn more calories and get their endorphins flowing and yet, the quality of movement continues to erode as they expend their calories.

Sometimes, I literally think we shun the self-limiting exercise because we can’t get the volume we think we need. Five of those is plenty of volume, because your quality deteriorates right after that.

Do those reps really count anyway?

Erwan Le Corre: Exactly. That’s what we emphasize in MovNat: Establish movement quality first and then increase volume, intensity and complexity. It means that we are interested in conditioning, but that conditioning is not something we have to do first. It is something that stems from the practice of the in-context movement.

Gray: It sounds like we have a new term: conditional conditioning. There are conditions to your conditioning.

Erwan: There are conditions to your conditioning.

More ways to explore Functional Movement with Gray Cook and Erwan Le Corre:
Erwan Lecorre Video - Gray Cook Erwan Lecorre - What Is Functional Movement


gray cook self limiting exercise, gray cook jump rope, gray cook loaded carries


Erwan Le Corre Movnat, What Is Movnat, Movnat Guidelines